By John Grubisich (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When it comes to his on-field performance, "consistent" isn't a word many would use to describe Jay Cutler. After all, how many times have we heard football analysts offer up this enlightening and illuminating insight : "It really depends on which Jay Cutler shows up..."
However, when it comes to the way he treats people-to his interpersonal skills-(which just happen to be Televised every week), the jury-at least as the media is concerned, is in: Jay Cutler is a jerk.
This season, Cutler seems to be faced by a negative media blitz every week for his on-field demeanor. Cutler has been widely criticized the last three weeks for the way he has treated the media, his coaches, and his teammates. Not surprisingly, Cutler’s response has been that the media is blowing these incidents out of proportion. He feels that his relationships with his teammates and coaches are not strained. Cutler has had a multiyear public perception as a whiner and a bad teammate. Whether the perception jives with reality- is up for debate.
Some of his supporters will compare his actions to that of Tom Brady. Jay Cutler was caught on camera screaming at left tackle J’Marcus Webb and then bumping it Webb as he tried to walk away. The media crucified Cutler for this action. In the same week Tom Brady screams at one of his teammates and the media talked about how Brady is a leader. Supporters of Cutler and maybe even Cutler himself view this as an unfair double standard.
Last weekend we saw Cutler get up and walk away from offensive coordinator Mike Tice as Tice was going to talk strategy presumably with Cutler on the bench. The media again has picked up on this and has called out Cutler for seeming to be immature. Here we will draw a comparison to Phil Simms and Steve Young. Simms was seen on multiple occasions getting in to verbal confrontations with his head coach Bill Parcells. Now that his career is over, few would label him as an immature quarterback and bad leader. Steve Young was ready to come to blows with his head coach George Seifert after being removed from a game in 1994 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He was seen screaming at Seifert on the sideline and admitted later in interviews that he wanted to hit Seifert. The 49ers won the 1994 season Super Bowl and players on the team talked about that moment being a turning point for them during the season.
So what can Jay Cutler do to become the media darling that these three quarterbacks have become? The answer is simple:
Start playing better and winning in big games.
Cutler has proven to be unable to play at an extremely high level during the most crucial games of his career. People will point to his 2010 playoff victory against the Seahawks as a huge game. Indeed it was important, but let’s be honest with ourselves. The Seahawks were a seven win team during the regular season. The victory on Monday night against the Cowboys was a nice step forward for Cutler, but let us look at the defining performances of the three quarterbacks I have mentioned. Brady orchestrated a game winning drive to upset the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. He also went on to win two more Super Bowl’s cementing his place as a leader of men. Phil Simms completed 22 of 25 passes to lead the Giants to the Super Bowl XXI victory over the Broncos. Steve Young threw six touchdown passes to defeat the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.
If Jay Cutler is able to have a marquee performance in the playoffs against a legitimate Super Bowl contender, it will increase his reputation as a leader and lead the low level of scrutiny that he relishes. I think we know who Cutler has to beat in order to become a legend in Chicago. If Cutler is able to outduel Aaron Rodgers in a playoff game, his sideline attitude will not only be tolerated, it will be encouraged. This is the kind of comfort with the media that Tom Brady enjoys. He has had the marquee games where he has played like a leader. Cutler has the talent to do what Brady has done, and this year, with this team, it’s up to him to create the reputation for himself that he obviously wants.
No matter how he acts on the sideline, he won’t be seen as a leader until he is able to perform on the biggest stages.